Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Thanks so much for listening to Missions on Point today. We are at the end of a very short series of major issues that churches call to Propempo for help. We talked about, Help, we have no missions focus. Help, our church is not involved in missions. Help, we need to cut a missionary." And today, we're going to deal with "Help, we have a missionary candidate. Help, we have a missionary candidate."

Right away, you might think, hey, that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing. And you're right, having a missionary candidate is certainly one of the most exciting things that can happen in the life of a church. It can also be disconcerting, particularly to leadership, because while they may have thought of and been trained a bit in developing leaders in the local church, they somehow have no clue about how to develop a missionary for cross-cultural work in a foreign field. The good news is it's not very different than developing a ministry leader within the local church, and we'll talk about that.

So I want to introduce you to the six Cs that we use in Propempo to describe the overall plan for developing and recognizing a missionary as qualified. First, we'll just start off with general qualifications. It might be helpful for us to refer to this missionary candidate or missionary wannabe as a real person with a name. It could be George or Georgette. It could be Mr. And Mrs. George and Georgette. It could be Peter or Petra. So there's lots of names, and we'll call him George.

You just have to ask some basic questions. Has George been an active church member? Has he served in the church? Has he participated in the growth and discipleship and development of spiritual ministries within the church? Does George have a clear Christian testimony? Is he a real believer? Does he understand the gospel? Is there something specific that he thinks he might want to do on the field, or is it just the allure of living in a foreign country that has grabbed his attention?

So key background to all of this that I'm going to share in this podcast is that we don't allow George to lay hands on himself. Just because he says, "I think I'm called," or even if he says, "I'm sure I'm called by God to be a missionary," doesn't make it so. The calling and confirmation and commissioning of a missionary takes place in the context of the body of Christ in the local church. So another way of saying that is that if George thinks he hears the call of God on his life to be a missionary, then those around him would hear that also.

Second major thing is that the calling to be a missionary is confirmed and verified in the context of relationship. So many times we've seen, in mission agencies, a form returned by the pastor as a recommendation or commendation of a possible missionary candidate, and the pastor really doesn't know George at all. And he thinks that because George thinks that he's supposed to be a missionary, that he must be a good guy, and he gives him high marks without any foundation of relationship and knowledge. The pastor may think he's going the extra mile if he asks the youth leader about George. "Is George A good guy? Is he okay?" But he would never turn over his pulpit for a long term to someone who has not been trained and tested in the context of relationship and a longer-term development process.

The third sort of overarching principle is that developing a missionary candidate to be qualified for the field varies widely depending on the individual candidate's education and experience and ministry competency before they ever go to the field. It also involves their life. So is George married? Does he have a sweetheart? Has George had much experience beyond middle school and high school and college? Has he had any specific training? These things take time, and if George happens to be a family man, then there's the whole family to consider and bring into that circle of development for competency toward becoming a missionary.

So let's get to the six Cs. I'm going to name them upfront. The first one is calling. We've talked about this. There is a biblical study on calling, which basically shows that the so-called missionary call is not a personal revelation per se. It is certainly not just transferring from one part of the world to the next part of the world. Calling is something that is affirmed through many of the other Cs to follow. The second one is character. That's what the scripture emphasizes. It should be emphasized for a missionary candidate as well. The third one is conviction, and by that we mean biblical understanding and theological competence. That is, ability to understand the themes of scripture, to interpret scripture, to be able to relate to a theological structure that makes sense of all the major themes of scripture so that when they get to the field, they're able to do that there as well.

The fourth C is competence, and by this we mean skills, experience. A missionary candidate should never be sent off to the field if they don't have specific skills in the gospel, first of all, and understand the gospel, they're articulate about how to explain the gospel, they have actually used it in their own personal evangelism and evangelistic opportunities through the church or the campus or wherever they're located. So George needs to have ministry skills, which are only attained through a process of training and experience and evaluation.

The fifth one is chemistry. This one is a generic term for gets along with people. It is relational skills. It is teamwork skills. It's not someone that is headstrong and arrogant and strong-willed. It is someone that is willing to listen to others, someone that plays nice on a team, that allows and solicits the input of others in their life as well as their ministry. And chemistry means that they are committed to unity and both asking for, receiving, and giving forgiveness in the context of people working together.

The sixth one is cross-cultural capacity. By that we mean the person must actually appreciate and love people of other cultures, have a genuine interest in and desire to get to know other cultures, and respect other cultures, not simply compare them to their own and judge them based on their own culture. I like to say that cross-cultural capacity is not just enjoying Taco Bell or your favorite Chinese restaurant from time to time. Cross-cultural capacity includes the ability to be flexible, to understand differences in culture and differences in environment. Almost surely, no matter where you move from your home place, it's going to be a significantly different kind of environment, and cross-cultural capacity is the flexibility to not only live and thrive in that situation, but to embrace it as a new identity, if you will.

So let's retrace our steps a bit. Is George called? Like the baseball umpire says, "A strike is a strike if I call it a strike. A ball is a ball if I call it a ball. Strikes and balls are determined by me, not by the batter or the pitcher." Similarly, with a missionary call, the missionary is called if he proves to be so in the context of the local church. So that one can be left toward the end.

Character. This is where the scripture is strong and speaks very explicitly about the character of a leader in terms of elders' and deacons' qualifications, and certainly, no matter what ministry the missionary may be going to, George needs to have minimally the qualifications of a deacon, a servant, and if he's going to handle God's Word, he probably also needs to be qualified as an elder. So let me just ask this question. How many 20 or 21 or 22 year old elders do you have in your church, and why do elders typically have some age to them? It's because they take time to develop those character qualifications that are seen and recognized and acknowledged by the people around them, which means they have some life wisdom built into their life. So if a young person like George wants to go to the field, he's going to have to take some time and really work at it to demonstrate that he has those character qualifications and life wisdom that goes along with it.

Conviction is that third C, and it involves biblical and theological knowledge and ability to use it in the right way. Most often for people like George, it means that he's going to go to Bible school or to seminary or college, university bachelor's degree, and a master's degree from a seminary. It's not really enough just to go through the academic side and get a degree. It's probably not the best thing to go away from a local church situation and go to seminary, blitz through all the academics, get the credits, get the degree, and then return to the local church saying, "See, I have my qualification."

Again, the qualifications are done in the context of a local church. So if he does go off to seminary or bible school, George should be involved in a local church there in a very significant way. He should be learning and knowing local church ministries, which takes us to the next C that is competence, which is ministry skill. We want to see George have ministry skill. And you get that through sort of the hard knocks of trying some things out, being under supervision to expand your skills so that you're able to teach or lead or organize or do all the things that are required in ministry, including administrative kinds of stuff and communication and working with teams.

All of that counts toward ministry competence in order to use that later on the field. Everything that George learns and experiences here on this side of the water is going to help him when he is alone or virtually alone with a small team working in an unreached people group area of the world and having to dig deep to pull out those skills in order to use it in that foreign context.

The next one is chemistry. We've talked about this a bit already. It seems like a no-brainer, but there are missionaries out there on the field that just don't have chemistry. And it shows up in bad ways on the field that not only put people off, but send people home, including George. If George doesn't have relational skills and chemistry to work with a team and work with other people, George is almost certainly going to come home because of preventable reasons. If he doesn't have chemistry with other people, it almost certainly going to cause problems on the field, on the team, and even with their ministry with their target population.

The last one is cross-cultural capacity. It is absolutely important that George have some cross-cultural experience here on this side of the water through his local church. It may be with short-term ministries overseas. It may be connecting with missionaries that you already support. But it also might be in an ethnic community that is near you in the nearest metro region, giving him experience to know what it feels like to eat and to interact with and to see how they live and to work with people of a foreign ethnicity so that he can develop realistic expectations about what that's going to feel like when he gets to the field.

So the question then occurs, how long does this take? The biblical illustration I most often use is that the Apostle Paul knew from the time that he became a believer on the road to Damascus that God was especially calling him to go to foreign nations and be his spokesman for the sake of the gospel. In other words, to be a missionary. Paul knew that God was calling him by special revelation, actually, to be a missionary from the time that he became a Christian.

How long did it take for the church in Antioch then to send him out? About 12 years, maybe more. All of that time was spent in Paul developing these six Cs, his character, his convictions, particularly in handling the scripture, his competence, ministry competence, sort of under the tutelage of Barnabas, if you will, chemistry in working with people and working in a plurality of leaders on a team like the elders of the Church of Antioch, and his cross-cultural capacity.

He had a little bit of a headstart because he had a mixed ethnicity background from his parents, yet he had to be fluent in understanding the culture, not just the language of different people groups along the way, because in every province, in every kind of tribe that he talked to, their culture was different. It just takes time. Don't rush it. It's worth the effort to take the time to develop properly under the supervision, tutelage, watch, care of the local church so that when George is ready to go, everybody is celebrating that George has qualified, he has gone through the gauntlet of everything needed to prepare him for the field, for long-term service and effectiveness for the Lord Jesus Christ and for the gospel.

So pastor, church leader, don't freak out when George approaches you and says, "I think God's called me to be a missionary." Work with him in the same way that you would work with training a church leader, and add these other elements in such a way that you can show, demonstrate, that George is really qualified to go overseas and be a missionary with the full confidence of the church. Now, you may be thinking of some other issues that are help issues for Propempo. I would love to hear those. Just email us at Give us your suggestions, give us your recommendations, and we would love to take that into account as we revisit this at another time. Some other major help issues. In the next four weeks, we're going to talk about the evaluation of local church missions ministries. It's going to be a great series. I hope you'll listen in.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen.

Comments (0)

Please login to comment.

Register for an account